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10 ways to take care of yourself, team and donors in December

While this year has been challenging, there are still some things you can do to take care of you, your team and your donors before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. Before you write the year off and start a new one, check out the tips below! 

This list isn’t meant to be an extra set of to-dos. In fact, I hope you look at it as a way to ease some of your stress, give yourself permission to enjoy a holiday season that is going to look a little different than normal, and set you up to start the new year on the right track for success.


Take care of you

During the holidays there are so many others to take care of that we often forget about ourselves. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic article Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping, "stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health."

Those who fly know that you are supposed to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others in case of an emergency. The same holds true in our work and personal lives. If we aren't healthy (mentally and physically) we cannot show up properly for others.

So what can we do?

1. Shelve perfection. Like many people, I love Pinterest, HGTV and the Food Network, but I also know that striving for the perfect decorations, food and presents is overwhelming, especially when work and other family demands are also high on the list. Let your house get a little messy. Don’t put up as many decorations or lights. Let the kids decorate or bake the cookies. Let your spouse or older kids help with shopping and cooking.

2. Do a brain dump, then delegate or remove tasks. When you are overwhelmed, get out a legal pad and do a brain dump of all the things you need, want and have to do. This exercise alone is helpful, but take it two steps further. First, rank them by order of importance (#1 tasks need to be done this week, #2 tasks need to be done in the next 2-3 weeks, #3 tasks you would like to have done in the next 1-3 months). Then, delegate what you can and remove what isn’t important.

3. Use and assess your benefits. Do you still have money in your FSA that you will lose at the end of the year? Spend it. Are you currently in open enrollment for benefits at your organization? Take the time to assess them to make sure you are set up for next year. Can you get any essential blood work in before the end of the year to meet your deductible? Schedule it if you can.

4. Find some alone time. Many of us have full houses right now. Kids are on break from school and we (and our spouses) might be working from home. There is just lots of togetherness. Find some space and time to be by yourself to just breathe and decompress. Take a walk in the park, grab a latte and take a drive to a scenic location. Just get away from the fray.


Take care of your team

Your team is probably feeling the same stress you are. But there are ways you can help eliminate some of the undue stress at work.

5. Celebrate successes. I am surprised by how many organizations I talk to work so hard to reach goals and then just go on to the next thing without celebrating what they accomplished. Take a few minutes at staff meeting to celebrate milestones or small wins. Send the team home an hour early one day for a job well done. (They probably worked extra hours on the project outside of the regular workday.) Send a quick email to let them know they did a good job.

6. Postpone anything that isn’t essential to next year. If you don’t have to do it in December, don’t. That staff lunch you wanted to try to do? Skip it. Do the same with the gift exchange. Or, if you have a big project or campaign that isn’t relevant to December, consider postponing it. People are distracted right now.

7. Have a plan on how you want to start the year. If you and your team are planning on taking vacation at the end of the year, set yourselves up so you know how your tasks and projects will look when you come back. Set up a one or two hour planning session to develop a list of things your team wants to start working on when you get back in January. Set goals for the first quarter so you know the direction you want to go.


Take care of your donors

8. Educate donors on how to give in ways that will benefit them. With stock markets at an all-time high, appreciated securities are tax-wise gifts for donors. IRA rollovers may benefit those age 70+ and monthly giving is a great way to build longer-term relationships with donors who cannot write a larger check at one time. Our friends at Akron Community Foundation have a great year-end giving guide to help your donors maximize year-end giving.

9. Tell them how important they are. Pick up the phone and call a planned giving donor to say hello and see how they are doing. (They may be lonely right now.) Send a quick email to let someone know you are thinking of them and how their gift has impacted your organization. Send a handwritten holiday card to major donors. Or, if you need some encouragement yourself, check out our year-end pep talk for fundraisers

10. Thank them often and in a timely way. If you aren’t thanking your donors after every gift, start now. If you are taking weeks to thank donors for their gifts, you need to shorten that window to a week, maximum. And if you are only thanking your donors once a year, you need to increase that number and thank them in creative and unique ways throughout the year.


This year has certainly been challenging in many ways. We’re fatigued, our teams are fatigued and our donors are fatigued. That’s why it is important to give ourselves some personal attention, let our teams know we appreciate their work and let our donors know we value their commitment to our organizations.


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